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Johnson opens Chase campaign with pole position

Jimmie Johnson laid down the gauntlet to his Chase rivals at the earliest opportunity, by claiming pole position for Sunday afternoon's GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson got his 2012 Chase campaign off to the best possible start by claiming pole position for Sunday's GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the first of the ten post-season play-off races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

"I felt really good about that lap," he said immediately after his qualifying run, which came early in the session after an intentionally slow showing in the Friday practice runs that determined the running order.

"We were trying to be smart, but at the same time we wanted to work on race trim in that first practice and stayed focused on it," said Johnson of their strategy going into qualifying. "We felt like the second practice session the temps would be closer to know than anything. It just kind of worked into our favour that way."

Johnson has another security blanket boosting him in qualifying, with the Hendrick Motorsports team having specifically kept a tried-and-tested car to use here in Chicago this weekend.

"This car has ran twice and we didn't want to hurt it," revealed Johnson. "It's been sitting there since Indy waiting to run again," he said, explaining that the squad routinely set aside "cars that we like. When we have success with cars, we'll push them off to the side as we get closer to the Chase. I don't want to screw up the record this car has. It's been awfully good for us."

Johnson and his team will certainly be hoping that this car lives up to expectations and doesn't meet with any ill fortune during Sunday's 400-mile race, which Johnson will start from the front after his lap of 29.530s (182.865mph) was 0.037s faster than Richard Petty Motorsports' Aric Almirola who will start alongside him on the second row.

"I am happy with that," said Almirola, happy with the way that the weekend is going so far. "It is going really good. We unloaded with a really good car, a really stable car. It drove really nice right off the truck so we have just been fine tuning it."

Almirola is not involved in the Chase, but both cars starting on the second row are - Johnson's Hendrick team mate Dale Earnhardt Jr. cinched third and Roush Renway Racing's Matt Kenseth is alongside him in fourth.

“The car was awesome, real good, good grip," said Earnhardt. "One and two felt awesome, good speed; three and four were a little bit tight," he added. "We were real happy with the car yesterday. It had good speed in practice, felt real comfortable with the car. I'm looking forward to it."




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, poses with his pole award after he was the fastest driver during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15, 2012 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick finishes as the runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Plaid Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, talks to Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, on the grid during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Friday, November 20, 2015 Sunday`s final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for thirteenth position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick will be joined by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eleventh position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Truex, Jr. will be joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon will be joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Sunday will be Gordon`s last race as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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